Ich möchte Bier – Berliner Weiße in particular

I want beer.

But sadly it is a Thursday morning and I am at work. In London.

We are not usually the biggest fans of beer. We like our stuff more potent – throw a cheap cava or prosecco at us any day, but beer?

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It takes too long to have the desired effect and makes you feel a bit like a bloke. Unless…you find yourself at an afterparty at 5am cradling a can of White Stripe – that is totally acceptable behaviour.

Obviously.

BUT…in Berlin there is a Bier so yummy I can make an exception.

Admittedly the one we like is really girly (it is pink) and is an upsettingly low percentage (around 3%). Which is not ideal but, god – if the lower percentage saves us from being those boozed up Brits abroad, so hated by Europeans, then that is fine with us!

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This scrumptious Bier is called Berliner Weiße and is found mostly in Northern Germany – namely Berlin and it dates all the way back to the 16th century.

Various dates are suggested for the birth of Berliner Weiße – as early as 1572.

There is even a widespread legend that Napoleon’s troops nicknamed the beverage as “The Champagne of the North” (so it kind of makes sense why we like it then…)

Anyway – back in the day it used to be the most popular alcoholic tipple in Berlin – but now the only brand still produced in Berlin is Berliner Kindl Weiße

Berlin has a huge range of beers – wander into any shop selling booze and you will be astounded at the vast array.

What’s that we have here? Oh yeah a “Boys Noize Techno Bier”

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That would be like having a “Disclosure Garage Beer” back home in Blighty (snigger).

Sadly for the rest of the world the brand Berliner Weiße is protected in Deutschland so it can only be used for Bier made in Berlin.

It is the flavoured syrups added to the Bier that make it so varied – the raspberry pink one is called “Himbeersirup”, the purple blackcurrant one is called “Johannisbeere” and there is some strange one with woodruff in (“Waldmeistersirup”). Ermm. We are still not sure what that is…

Our rating: *** ( 3% = 3 stars )

Anne x

Photos: Laura Chapman, Danny Baker 

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Auf Wiedersehen Kater Holzig

We are sad.

One of our favourite clubs in Berlin is closing.

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We heard rumours of its closure being muttered beside the Spree as we sat there in summer. With our feet dangling in the water and talking to newfound friends we watched the sun rise. But pre-occupied with bathing in the dawning sunlight and having a lovely time we were quick to dismiss it as idle chitchat and hoped against hope that it was not true.

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Upon our return to London we gave it a quick Google and could find nothing to suggest its demise…except for one old Resident Advisor page from 2012 stating that the club co-founder Christoph Klenzendorf had turned his attention to a new project.

Time dragged by and we waited with baited breath for the closing party that RA suggested would be taking place in September 2013.

Further research meant we soon discovered that back in the day Klenzendorf was one of the founders of Kater’s predecessor, Bar 25, and that in the last few years the land upon which Bar 25 was originally founded had been put up for auction.

Klenzendorf & co have managed to win back the original site and plan to build a new space.

This will be entitled HOLZMARKT – aka “Timber Market” – www.holzmarkt.com

September came and went and we heard nothing. No news was good news and we thought perhaps Kater and Holzmarkt might co-exist, beautifully straddling the river banks.

kater bye

Then, this October, the news we dreaded: the Facebook page announced the closure. Everyone now has until 31st December 2013 to soak up Kater in all its glory.

KaterHolzig.de has even helpfully added a countdown to its homepage (ouch).

The clock is ticking people – go now or regret it.

We have had some of our bestest B-town nights and days (and nights again) at this former cotton mill.

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It is hard to explain the fairy tale-esque nature of the place.

Hidden grottos a’plenty, pounding bass, wendy houses, marriage proposals, bicycles, declarations of love, skateboard ramps, friendly brown bears, wooden decking, fairy lights, graffiti, food, drink, stumbling upon sex acts, smoke machines, losing our smartphones (who needs material possessions when you have Kater!?), long lost friends from around the world, fire pits, brave people splashing around in the river and…a giant cat presiding over it all in his top hat.

We are going to console ourselves with the fact this is not “Goodbye” – we will see Klenzendorf & co’s beautiful vision again. It is merely “Auf Wiedersehen” for now.

Bring on Holzmarkt!

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Our rating: ***** (+ one iPhone)

Anne x

Photos: Bluespot.de, Kater Holzig.de, Laura Chapman 

Michelberger Hotel – the most wunderbar place to stay in Berlin

We love Michelberger Hotel. Situated on Warschauer Straße in the cool Friedrichshain area, it’s the perfect location for everything you need on a trip to B Town. 

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It was recommended to us by friends, and honestly, we think it’s the one of the best places we’ve stayed in any city, ever. We wouldn’t stay anywhere else. We’ve visited friends in hostels in the city, and nothing compares to the quirky, modern, edgy, yet friendly atmosphere at Michelberger.

You’re free to come and go as you please (obviously, you won’t get judged for disappearing off for a few nights clubbing and coming back disheveled – a big plus. Who needs nosy receptionists? But maybe we’re just used to curtain-twitching British B&Bs – argh). And when you ARE in your room, you think, god, why isn’t my house like this?!

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Vintage deco is mixed with clean lines, details that are unique to each room, and a range of rooms from cosy (which are lovely, minimalist, and cute as hell) to loft rooms and special mezzanine abodes.

We hate to use the word ‘quirky’ – but this place truly is (shout out to the Big Lebowski – which plays on TVs in the halls on loop. It might drive you a little bit mad after a while, but it also makes you think, ‘Ah, I’m home’).

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And the lounge area is to die for – with amazing cocktails (we’ve OD’d on espresso martinis many a time). And the food is ace, too!

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Yummy.

Plus, it’s all totally on budget – rooms start at just 70 Euros for two people per night (that’s 35 Euros, kids – a steal for the standard you get).

We can’t sing its praises loud enough. Seriously.

Don’t bother with chain hotels! Go for lovely MichelB. You won’t regret it.

Our rating: *****

Rosie x

Photos: Michelberger Hotel, Rosie’s Instagram

 

Places to visit – Cambodia

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Cambodia is often overlooked in the well-trodden and much lauded route taken by travellers around South East Asia. But this is beginning to change and rightly so! During my travels across Thailand, Vietnam and Laos I was overwhelmed with relief that I had chosen to include Cambodia on my trail around the world.

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The history of Cambodia is one full of bloodshed, civil war and poverty. But the Cambodian people have the most infectious smiles and laughter that you may ever see or hear.

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In Cambodia you can witness the battle that the people have been through: a battle between heaven and hell.

Heavenly – Upon visiting Cambodia via beautiful Siem Reap you are able to enter the kingdom of the gods: Angkor Wat (built in 1125). This is widely viewed as the ‘pride’ of Cambodia; a world full of temples (‘wats’) and the remains of a once glorious and rich empire. The scale and grandeur of the ruins are impossible to imagine until you have visited them for yourself.

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Yet even here you can see where marks of evil have left their stain upon this once beautiful landscape. The magnificent walls are punctuated by bullet holes and large portions of the temples have been destroyed by looters and thieves.

Hellish  – These bullet holes brought the heavenly realm of the Angkor gods back down to earth with a crash. It is humanity and the reign of the Khmer Rouge that have since left their imprints upon Cambodia.

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The country has been through colonisation by the French in the 19th century, bombings by the US in the 70s, and then the reign of terror and civil war, sparking the rise of the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

This radical communist party and its leader Pol Pot killed an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians through torture and starvation.

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Areas known as ‘The Killing Fields’ were set up to maim and execute people. Weapons such as guns, poison and bamboo sticks were used upon families who had been uprooted from the cities, such as Phnom Penh (the capital). These mass graves, which often had to be dug by the victims themselves, can still be visited today.

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As a result of this fractured history, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and to this day most of the population still subsists on less than $1 a day. It is only now that the UN is bringing to justice those responsible for this mass genocide.

Travelling to Cambodia is something that is a worthwhile and culturally rich experience. Here you can meet local people and witness life in a way that still manages to preserve the native environment. Living alongside the communities, eating and drinking local delicacies, such as the delicious Amok dish, are real eye opening experiences. It is impossible not to notice the charm and warm-welcome that you will receive from both the city and village dwellers, despite all that they have been through.

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Angkor Wat and the Cambodian people may have felt the sting of bullets in the past, but these bullets have always managed to narrowly avoid the heart of the Cambodian people. It may be said that the ‘pride’ of Cambodia is Angkor Wat, but I would beg to differ: the pride of Cambodia is its people!

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Our rating: *****

Anne x

The Bodyguard – first night with Beverley Knight at the Adelphi Theatre

the-bodyguard-original1I’ve always loved The Bodyguard.

Whitney Houston is perfect – not only because of her voice (which is obviously one of the main pulls of the film), but also because of her portrayal of superstar in crisis, Rachel Marron.

And a star in crisis Whitney was in real life too – we all know what happened, and I still can’t really believe that Whitney is gone.

For Whitney/Bodyguard fans, the lines are blurred. Are you watching a story about a singer called Rachel Marron, or are you just watching (and gawping) at Whitney and her amazing voice?

So going to see the stage version of the epic film was always going to be pretty poignant for me.

Rachel’s story is different from Whitney’s – in the film/stage show she’s being stalked, and needs the protection of a bodyguard (Kevin Costner in the film, Tristan Gemmill in the stage show), who she then falls in love with.

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Whitney Houston is one of my favourite ever singers, so I was worried that Beverley Knight, though a national treasure with a ridiculously great vocal range of her own, might not be able to emulate Whitney.

But I was wrong – Beverley lends her own twist to Rachel’s story. She hit every note perfectly – and there are a lot of songs in this play! She doesn’t try to emulate Whitney’s voice, but instead sings in her own incredible style.

The Bodyguard Beverly Night

The play has been adapted from the film as a tribute to Whitney, and each of her biggest hits is in it – from I Wanna Dance With Somebody to I Will Always Love You.

The stage show is especially tense when the audience realises that Rachel’s stalker is creeping along the side of the seating.

And it was a huge success – Beverley got the standing ovation she deserved, even before the show was finished.

If you’re into Whitney Houston, and want to celebrate her musical achievments, then this is one musical you will enjoy.

A must-see for Whitney fans.

whit

R.I.P., Whitney Houston – we will always love you!

P.S. As it was Beverley’s first night in the role, there was a good turnout of celebrities, from Emeli Sande to Shingai Shinowa of The Noisettes… and I found myself sitting next to Mel C from the Spice Girls. Which made me feel the ‘girl power’ even more. Perfect.

Our verdict: ****

Rosie x 

FOPP Film Club – The Kings of Summer at The Roxy Bar & Screen

the roxy

The Roxy is an amazing place to watch any films that you may have missed when they were initially released. This bar and screen mean that you can combine dinner, drinks and cinema. Pushing back the curtain at the rear of a small bar down Borough High Street you can happily throw yourself down upon one of the many comfy, burgundy leather sofas and watch a film sprawled out with booze, friends and food within easy reaching distance.

Once the film starts the only illumination is via candles casting a warm, red glow across the room. This is much preferable to cramming yourself into a crowded Odeon full of screaming children and with popcorn flying.

Many of the films include intervals as well so you can have a crafty cigarette or toilet break without missing any of the action onscreen!

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We went to see The Kings of Summer, an indie flick that is a admittedly a very funny coming-of-age tale in the style of Stand by Me.

Unfortunately the film was only given a limited release in the US and UK – meaning not as many people got the chance to laugh out loud to three boys’ harebrained attempts at building a fortress in the middle of nowhere and fending for themselves against the wilds of nature.

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These young boys, disillusioned by their everyday lives – full of stifling parents, humdrum schoolwork, and high school bullying,  decide to escape and run wild and free in nature, learning to fend for themselves and eventually returning to society as fully fledged men (sort of).

Our absolute favourite character had to have been Moisés Arias playing the ridiculously weird Biaggio. His large bug eyes staring out at his contemporaries in all manner of camouflaged nooks and crannies  – simultaneously freaking out everybody in the cinema and providing the majority of laughs (at one point confusing the symptoms of cystic fibrosis as signs that he is gay!?)

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Other actors worth watching are the Justin Bieber-styled Nick Robinson (the brains behind the great escape), Megan Mullay (Karen from Will and Grace!) who is as funny as ever but in a totally different way, and Mullay’s real-life husband – Nick Offerman. They must be one seriously funny couple off-screen!

The film was showcased to us by the FOPP film club – the wonderfully cheap DVD, CD and book store.

One could tell that the hosts of the event were passionate about the film they were showing and took great delight in opening it up to a wider audience. Something FOPP should be applauded for!

Unfortunately during these penny pinching days FOPP’s fate has suffered like so many others – now only one shop exists in London (whereas before there had been 150 across the country).

fopp

So head down to Covent Garden and make sure another staple of the British high street doesn’t crumble! Failing that, give The Kings of Summer a chance. Indie films and indie shops are a precious but increasingly rare commodity these days…

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Photos: Danny Baker, The Kings of Summer promo & Sboy2010

Scream if you wanna shine brighter – House of Pain, Zenith House

House of pain

If you find yourself ambling around SE1 at any point before the 20th October, and discover that you have a spare minute, make sure that you pop into the House of Pain along Borough High Street. I accidentally stumbled upon this secret gem recently when pacing quickly down the street, a typical busy London commuter – and then…something interesting caught my eye.

Bright flashing lights, broken shards of glass, and high pitched screams came emanating forth from a derelict building – Zenith House. This is something to make any work-obsessed commuter stop in their tracks.

There is no huge advertising explaining what is going on, but being nosy and attracted to shiny objects, I crossed the road (dodging rush-hour traffic) to find out that unbeknownst to me MERGE festival is currently underway.

MERGE festival is a yearly celebration of the rich history and contemporary culture of Bankside. Taking place from 19th September – 20th October 2013 there is a flourishing of art, music and performance taking place around the area.

For further information, see here: http://mergefestival.co.uk/

House of Pain is an art and light installation set in place by Marcus Lyall and Mark Logue. Currently residing in a derelict building it is open 5pm – 10pm Wednesday to Sunday.

The abandoned Zenith House is due for transformation into a hotel by Kings College London soon – and people are not happy. Opponents to the new scheme include English Heritage, The Victorian Society, The Georgian Group, The Ancient Monuments Society and Spitalfields Trust. The preservation of this building has caused a furore that Lyall and Logue have tapped into – a frustration with the modern, working age.

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Passers-by are invited to enter a darkened room on the ground floor and scream for as long and as loud as they like – as a way of exorcising their anger, fear or stress. The whiter the light the more high-pitched the noise, and my vocals chords certainly felt strained after a few minutes inside. Deeper, more manly groans caused an eruption of purple and pink lights to wash over the building.

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Of course there is a lot more taking place throughout the month of MERGE festival…

Be sure to check out Candy Chang’s Before I Die.

There are two walls – one next to the House of Pain and another in Flat Iron Square. Here members of the public are asked to write their deepest desires on a large blackboard. These boards are covered in chalk scrawlings outlining what people aspire to do before their last breath.

before i dieIt is part of a much bigger project – there are, at present, 150 chalkboards for Before I die up around the world – and in 15 different languages.

It is a creative, worldwide project that can be found in such far-flung destinations as Thailand, Argentina and Israel (plus many more). It is a chance to gaze upon our fellow human beings’ creative outpourings, and Chang has managed to turn public places into art-filled, community-spirited wonders.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

Photos: MERGE festival.co.uk (Tommophoto)